The annual Teamsters Women’s Conference recently wrapped up, and this year’s event was held for the first time in Canada. Teamsters from across North America gathered in Montreal in solidarity and unity.
“This conference isn’t about me; it’s about you, it’s about us, shaping our future together,” said Nina Bugbee, Director of the Teamsters Women’s Conference.
“Our theme this year is ‘Teamster Women: Shaping the Future.’ This conference is special because it brings like-minded women together and there’s nothing better than that!” Bugbee said in her opening remarks to the Teamster women who filled every seat of the ballroom where the conference was held.
The three-day conference was filled with opportunities to learn through various educational workshops, panels and social activities. But most importantly the conference provided the opportunity for women of all backgrounds to unite and empower one another, which seemed heightened at this year’s welcoming general session.
“I’m so proud of how Canada treats its workers and stands up for women. But don’t be naïve; nothing in this country was given to us, we had to fight for it. And this is the same fight for you in the U.S. It’s important for you to stand up and get involved,” said François Laporte, President of Teamsters Canada.
As speaker after speaker took to the stage, each had a keen focus on the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election, the need for more women in office and to stand up for women’s rights.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa also had a message for the 2020 presidential candidates: “I listened to hours of the debate, and I don’t hear them talking about our issues,” Hoffa said. “I don’t hear the word ‘union.’ I don’t hear the words ‘collective bargaining.’ I don’t hear the words ‘save our pensions.’ Until they say that, they’re not getting one cent of our money!”
Following Hoffa, General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall stated the importance of tuning in to the membership and issues members face every day and the important role the union has to play with its members.
“We may live in different countries, but working people have the same problems all over the world. But we are privileged in both of our countries to have the Teamsters Union represent us,” Hall said.
Fernanda Santos, President of Local 847 in Ontario, was presented with an award dedicated to her service as a Teamster and her groundbreaking success of female Teamster leadership in Canada.
“A lot of people may think I’m a superhero, but being a superhero has nothing to do with it. It’s your passion for people and people’s rights, for the underdog. It’s standing up and doing what’s right. You need to be fearless and we need more women Teamster representatives. We need more women leaders at all levels,” Santos said.
Last year, Teamsters Canada created a seat for women on their National Executive Board and Santos serves in that position. She is also the first woman elected as a local President in Canada.
Engaging and Learning
Throughout the conference, Teamster women spent their days engaging and learning with their sisters at the various workshops held.
From “Building a Member Army” and “The Mathematics of Collective Bargaining” to “Solutions in the Bus Industry,” there was no shortage of workshops for women to share and exchange knowledge and tools to bring back to their local unions and workplaces.
“This is my first Women’s Conference,” said Whitney Davis from Local 519 in Knoxville, Tenn. “I’m a UPS-er and the workshop dedicated for UPS folks was important. It’s important to get as many updates and as much information as possible.”
Workshops are not only a way for Teamster women to share updates, fresh ideas and resources with each other, but to inspire them.
“It’s so great to come here and learn so much,” said Maria Solorio-Cortez, a member of Local 890 in Salinas, Calif. “It’s wonderful to get new ideas and to see what different things everyone is doing. We’re learning so much that we’re going to put to use at our local.”